Try to imagine if you can: twenty-five, late-adolescent boys – all offenders being processed at the Reception and Diagnostic Center in Bon Air for entry into the Department of Juvenile Justice. They sit on molded plastic chairs in a stark, cinderblock room, hair buzzed, clothed in drab prison garb. It is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Gone are the restless defiant energy, the exchange of banter and barbs, and the guardedness of their facial expressions. They are listening attentively to a man speak. This is what we of the River Road Prison Ministry group observed in surprise the first night Kenneth Davis, an ex-felon who spent thirty years in the Virginia State Penitentiary, joined our group in April 2011 to tell his inspiring story to the cottage of boys we had been visiting at RDC. What follows is Kenny’s summary of what he says to the boys. (Christie Lessels, Prison Ministry Coordinator, RRCB)
My talk is about choices, decisions and the consequences; how one can mess up his life by making wrong choices and choosing wrong people as friends and associates. My talk is also about making decisions while in prison, meaning it is very important not to get involved with the wrong people or gangs. The choices they make in prison go a long way as far as making it out and staying out of trouble.
One of the most important things I talk about is that although they have made bad decisions, they can still come out and have a successful life, get a job, get things back together with family, and stay positive. But the key is not going back to where they came from or getting involved with the same elements.
I use myself as an inspiration, having spent 30 years in prison and being able to come out, get a job, own a car, and have a positive life. It gives them hope that if I can do it after 30 years, they can do it after a much shorter time. I think my story gives them inspiration and also puts fear in them, opening their eyes to how long a prison term can be.
I also talk to them about how I accepted Christ in my life and all it has meant for me to put my trust in God. I encourage them to accept God in their lives and not worry about what their buddies think. In prison, guys worry about how their buddies look at them or what they say if they go to Bible study, pray, and become a Christian. I tell them I used to be just like that: worried about what the other inmates thought and ashamed to take part in those things.
But most important, I tell them what Jesus has done in my life, how God gives second chances. I just pray that it is God’s will to continue to use me to talk to the kids at RDC. I am doing fine and God is good.